I guess I should take a few paragraphs on this article to explain my stance on crowd-funded game projects. I’ve always been turned off by most Kickstarter game projects for a very simple reason: after personally inquiring a plethora of developers on their stance for Open-Source and Free Software, I was generally met with negative replies, half-baked excuses, bitter retorts or complete silence.
Now, although I recognize it is every developer’s right to pick the license and the conditions for the usage of their own work, it strikes me as a very odd attitude for people engaging into crowd funding projects to be so unwilling to provide any other warranties to their prospective backers and future customers other than “we will make this happen if you give us enough money”. From this point, let’s make something clear: pledging on a crowd-funded game project isn’t exactly the same thing as buying a video game. From the backers’ part it’s an investment and a risk. It’s about depositing your faith on other peoples’ words, in hopes they will eventually deliver what they promised. When you buy a game, be it good or bad, you at least know that you’re dealing with a finished product. When you pledge on a crowd-funded project, completion is only a possibility regardless of the campaign’s success.
So, in my personal opinion, I’ve always thought crowd-funded game projects should strive to provide the level of trust they request from their backers. In this case, that means allowing people to have access to the game’s source code under a permissive / Free Software license, preferably starting right at the end of the campaign. Why? Simply because that allows for a tighter control of what’s going on in the development backstage, and will allow every contributor to provide better feedback on the work being done. Raw engine code also gives backers something that can eventually be picked up and used for other personal purposes, if the project happens to fail for some reason.
With that said, let’s talk a little about this project, which is, after all, what lead me to write this post. Asylum is the brainchild of Agustin Cordes, the Argentinian developer behind Scratches, a horror game that managed to get some degree of attention way back in 2006. The project aims to create a Lovecraftian-inspired horror point-and-click adventure game that will focus on an intense and immersive atmosphere, followed closely by engaging storytelling. From the trailer and screenshots provided so far, it seems like a rather professional endeavour, but for me the most pleasant surprise, was that the developer’s in-house engine, Dagon, will be Free and Open-Source. On top of that, Cordes himself actually took the time to explain why he believes the engine should be free, and how such a decision aims not only to help preserve Asylum for future generations, but also to empower other indie developers by providing an open platform anyone will be free to use.
Since there is no information available about specific licensing on the project page, I actually went on to ask the developer about which specific license was being used for the Dagon engine:
Me: Hello. I have one question regarding Dagon. You already stated it’s going to be free and open source, but exactly under which software license are you going to release it?
Agustin Cordes: Hi! We’re currently using CDDL but I’m expecting to re-license with the more popular MPL 2.0 very soon. Cheers!
Me: Fair enough. Do I have your permission to quote this conversation in a news blog about Free Software gaming?
Agustin Cordes: Absolutely!
“MPL” referring of course to the Mozilla Public License, which despite not being a strong copyleft license, it is both Free Software and GPL compatible. So perhaps Dagon can motivate a new generation of graphic adventure lovers to innovate upon the work started by Asylum. We can only hope future Kickstarter projects and indie developers adopt a similar perspective on Open-Source development.
With little less than a few days to go (I’m ashamed to say I only heard about this project very recently), Asylum is already fully funded, but if you still wish to contribute to this genuinely FLOSS project, or simply purchase the game for a special price, you still have a chance. Extra funding goals have already been set, and some additional rewards may also seem worthy to you.